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Dive Review of Wakatobi/Pelagian in

Wakatobi/Pelagian, Dec, 2007,

by David Reubush, VA, USA (Top Contributor Top Contributor 66 reports with 33 Helpful votes). Report 3800.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments After having already paid for a trip on the Wakatobi boat, the Pelagian, it was with some significant concern that I read the less than glowing review in the August issue of Undercurrent. After my previous disastrous experience with booking the Adventure Komodo and almost losing all our money I wondered what had I now gotten my wife and myself into. Would we have gone through all the pain and end up with a mediocre experience? Well, we have just returned from a 14 day trip on the Pelagian and I can definitely say that I did not make a mistake. I do not know what Pelagian the reviewer was on, but it certainly was not the boat we were on. The Pelagian we were on was perhaps the best live-aboard we have ever been on.

The whole operation was, by far, the best organized of any live-aboard we have been on. Even though we were touring Bali for 5 days before we were scheduled to fly to the boat the Wakatobi Bali representative, Crispin Jones, still had 2 of his people meet us inside the secure area of the Bali airport to facilitate getting our visas and getting us through customs and immigration. While the rest of the people on our flight stood in line we were wisked through both immigration and customs and delivered to the guide and driver from the local tour operator we had booked. (I can also recommend the Bali tour operator: Mr. Ayub of the Bali office of Indi-go Travel - Private tours with an English speaking guide and driver were $50 + entrance fees for 8+ hours.) The day we were to leave for the boat Crispin met us at curbside at the airport and, again, his people wisked us through security to a lounge to wait for the flight. The flight to Tomia was on an ATR-42 that had some age on it, but it got us there and back with no problems. We were served lunch on the airplane complete with cold washcloths to refresh us before we started eating. After landing we were loaded into a “fleet” of small vans for the ride to the village where we caught a boat for the resort. Since there were people who were staying at the resort as well as the 9 of us who were going on to the Pelagian our bags had been tagged with the respective destinations at check-in and were delivered directly there. We all got off at the resort and were welcomed with a cold drink. After a reasonable period for rest and relaxation the 9 of us were gathered up and got back on the boat for a short ride to the Pelagian. Our bags were waiting for us on the boat and we were shown to our cabins. We had one of the least expensive cabins on the boat and it was probably twice as big as any cabin we have been in with either Peter Hughes or the Aggressor Fleet. The rest of the day was spent stowing our clothing, setting up our gear, and being briefed about the operation of the boat. The meet and greet was typical of the great organization for all facets of the operation.

Rather than continue a blow-by-blow description of the operation and diving I will try to highlight differences between our experience and that of the August reviewer. First of all, our dive masters were Angela, Anton, and Wendy. Angela and Anton were native Indonesians while Wendy was an ex-pat Brit who had been with the resort for 4+ years. They took turns rotating through the tenders and filling the tanks. They were all good at finding things, especially Anton and Wendy. Even though Wendy had been there for some time she had an infectious enthusiasm and still got excited when she found something really interesting for us to see. She often stayed up to review people’s photos to make sure we had gotten the “good ones.” On one dive Anton was finding things so fast I couldn’t keep up taking pictures. The 9 divers were split into two groups; two couples, who were traveling together, in tender 1 and the rest of us in tender 2, which was driven by Brom. Dives were at 6:45, 10:30, 2:15, and 5:30. Since all our gear except wetsuits and cameras was kept in the tenders getting into and out of them from the Pelagian was relatively easy. At the dive sites Brom helped everyone into their respective BC’s and we back rolled into the water, at which point he passed out cameras. Underwater we all loosely followed the dive master, but there was no problem if photographers stopped or wandered off to take pictures. However, it was to your advantage to not wander too far as the dive masters were far better at finding stuff than we were.

As far as the diving was concerned it was all I expected and more. It was so good that I did all 50 dives that were offered during our trip and would have done more if I could have. The August reviewer seemed to be upset that he did not see any pelagics. While we saw a few sharks, a few eagle rays, a random tuna or two, and lots of large bumphead parrots I did not come to see big fish. If you want big fish go to the Galapagos or someplace similar. I did come looking for some specific things and I saw them all and more. I wanted to see pygmy seahorses and we saw 4 varieties. I wanted to see ornate ghost pipefish and we saw numerous. I wanted to see mandarin fish and we saw at least 2 pair. I wanted to see Spanish dancers and I, personally, found 2. I wanted to see ribbon eels and we saw one blue and 2 black. I wanted to see frogfish and we saw several from small through large. I could go on, but you get the picture. I shot macro the entire trip and was totally happy with that decision. The water typically had lots of particulates (read food - hence the healthy reefs and fish life) so that wide-angle shots, except those at the top of the reefs in shallow water, would have had lots of flashback. The daytime dives were nominally 70 minutes and the dusk/night dives were nominally 60 minutes. However, many went longer. My average for daytime dives (38 dives) was 73 minutes and my average for night dives (12 dives) was 69 minutes. In 12 and a half days of diving we never dived the same site twice except we did both a daytime and a night dive at two muck sites (both were great and different).

On the boat the two large rinse tanks were reserved for cameras and computers only, no sharing with wetsuits etc. There were 6 cameras among the 9 divers on this trip. The camera room was really not far from the rinse tanks and was well equipped with lots of both 110 and 220 outlets for battery charging. There was plenty of space for the 6 cameras, housings, etc. with a generous supply of dry towels for wiping off housings before opening them up. There were 4 warm water showers on each side of the boat so that you could rinse yourself and wetsuit off when you got back on the Pelagian. After taking your wetsuit off there were hangers up on the upper deck where you could hang them to dry. On most sunny days the suits got reasonably dry between dives.

The August reviewer was also unhappy about the quality of entertainment in the salon, the space available, and the cost of drinks. His group must have consisted of more party animals than ours. All 9 of us were 50+, we had plenty of space, and most of the time spent in the salon was occupied with going through the extensive library of fish/creature identification books trying to figure out exactly what we had seen. There was also very little in the way of drinks consumed, a beer or two, a few glasses of wine, and a few sodas. There was always cold water, apple juice, orange juice, and two types of milk available for free, so why pay for drinks? When you consider the logistics involved with getting the drinks to the boat the prices, which were not as high as those in many US restaurants, weren’t excessive.

He also complained about the food. In my opinion it was as good as that on any live-aboard I have been on. While the cuisine was not gourmet and focused on Southeast Asian dishes we always got hot food and plenty of it. You were always given a choice of 2 main dishes for both lunch and dinner, but if you didn’t like what was offered they would fix whatever you wanted as long as they had it. We had one vegetarian and one person who had significant food allergies and neither complained about the variety of food they had. For breakfast they would fix just about anything remotely related to breakfast. My wife ended up eating fried potatoes and onions a number of times as she really liked how they fixed it.

The only problem I had the whole trip was I brought the wrong wetsuit. Before the trip I had an email exchange with Crispin about what thickness to bring. Crispin said that the water was 83 F, but was most insistent that we needed 5 mm since we were doing 4 dives a day. The dive masters did, indeed, wear 5 mm suits. However, they were acclimated to the tropics and 83 F was cold to them. To us, from the cold north, it was warm. I wore the 5 mm suit for one dive and then switched to squeezing into one of my wife’s skins with a 5/3 mm hooded vest for the rest of the trip and was fine. My wife, who is very cold natured, also switched after a couple of days to skins and hooded vest and was fine. Over the 50 dives my computer said that the water ranged from 84 to 88 and my wife’s indicated about 3 degrees cooler. In either case, for a cold weather person, it was warm.

Needless to say I had a great time and will return.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Australia, Belize, Bimini, Bonaire, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Curacao, Dominica, Galapagos, Grand Turk, Provo, Red Sea, Roatan, Utila, Virgin Islands
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 84-88°F / 29-31°C Wetsuit Thickness 0
Water Visibility 40-80 Ft/ 12-24 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Come back with 500 psi, but nobody checked.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 1 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments 2 big rinse tanks dedicated to cameras and computers. Camera room had lots of both 110 and 220 outlets. Camera room didn't have compressed air for drying, but did have lots of clean, dry towels for that purpose.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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